homily – June 14

Mark 4: 26-34

Today we celebrate the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. The first recording of what we call the ‘last supper’ in found in St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, written long before the gospels. Paul claims he received his knowledge of this event from Christ Himself, “I received from the Lord what I handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night on which he was betrayed took a loaf of bread and when he had given thanks, he broke and said, ‘this is my body which is for you, do this in remembrance of me. In the same way he took the cup after supper saying, this is the new covenant in my blood. Do this in remembrance of me'” Then Paul goes on to say,” for as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

We lose the full meaning of this feast is we focus just on the consecrated host as the Body of Christ. It truly is of course. But Paul also told the Corinthians, ‘you are the body of Christ, individually and as a community.’ Paul saw Christ as the head of the body and we are the members of the body, interconnected and interdependent. No member of the body can say to another, “I have no need of you”.

So today we celebrate the full dimensions of this feast, Christ present in the Eucharist and Christ present in each of us, as individuals and as a parish community. Christ is present in the tabernacle, Christ is present on the altar and Christ is present in you good people gathered for this celebration, in different modes of presence. What would you think if, when I arrived to celebrate this Mass, instead of genuflecting to the tabernacle I genuflected to you? Instead of reverencing Christ present in the tabernacle I reverenced Christ present in you? Both gestures would be perfectly valid and true.

We were all taught to reverence and respect the sacred host. In the old days if the priest dropped the host on the floor there was a strict procedure to be followed; a white cloth was put on the spot so no one who step on it and after the Mass the priest was to wash the spot clean. But do we show the same respect and reverence for each other? Do we show reverence and respect for the Body of Christ we meet in this church or at the plaza or on the subway? Do we show reverence and respect for the Body of Christ living under our own roof?

Individually, do we show reverence and respect for ourselves as the Body of Christ? Do we recognize that we are blessed people meant to be Christ to each other and to the world? Do we have the same patience and compassion for ourselves as we are mean to have to others who are the Body of Christ?

We do not receive communion because we are good and holy, we receive communion because of a hunger we have to be more what we are, the body of Christ. We receive communion because we want to make real in our own lives what St Paul saw as the reality of his life, “for to live is Christ, I live now, not I but Christ lives in me.” We receive communion because we are aware of our own weaknesses and failing and the need we have for Christ’s grace and presence in our lives.

St. Augustine’s formula for giving communion was; receive what you are, become what you receive, the Body of Christ. When we say Amen at communion we not only acknowledge that we are receiving Christ, we are acknowledging too that we must be the Body of Christ if our Amen is to be true.

As we continue to celebrate this feast of the Body and Blood of Christ may each of us be blessed with a deeper faith in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the presence of Christ in ourselves, the presence of Christ in every person we meet. May each of us say Amen to each of these realities.